Hello everyone and welcome to this update of my October 14, 2013 Ethics Alert which will discuss the decision of The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Advertising (SCA) today (October 29, 2013) regarding the 9/11/13 Florida Bar Advertising Staff Opinion. That Staff Opinion states, inter alia, that Florida lawyers cannot list areas of practice on the LinkedIn “Skills and Expertise” page unless they are Board Certified (or the equivalent). The September 11, 2013 staff opinion is here: http://it-lex.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Florida-Bar-Opinion-re-LinkedIn-Redacted.pdf
I have received information today from Bar Ethics and Advertising Counsel Elizabeth Tarbert updating the SCA’s decisions at its meeting today, October 29, 2013 regarding the September 11, 2013 Staff Opinion on LinkedIn.
According to Ms. Tarbert, the SCA voted 3-1 to affirm the staff opinion that the firm may not list areas of practice under the header “specialties” even though the word “specialties” is chosen by LinkedIn and cannot be modified by the firm because the firm controls whether the firm adds areas under the listing, a law firm cannot be certified, and the areas listed are not areas of certification under Rule 4-7.14(a)(4) and 6-3.4(c).
The SCA voted 4-0 to reverse the staff opinion that a listing under “Top Skills and Expertise” of wrongful death, personal injury litigation, medical malpractice, automobile accidents, product liability (together with a numeric indicator) violates Rule 4-7.14(a)(4), because the firm states that the information is posted solely by LinkedIn and the firm has no control over the posting.
The SCA voted 4-0 to reverse the staff opinion that a posting of a former firm employee requires the area of certification when indicating board certification under Rule 4-7.14(a)(4) because the firm states that LinkedIn is solely responsible for the appearance of the posting of part of a former firm employee’s profile on the firm’s LinkedIn page and the firm has no control over the posting and cannot modify it.
The SCA also voted to contact LinkedIn to inform LinkedIn of the problem created for Florida Bar members by LinkedIn choosing the terms “specialties” and “expertise” in parts of LinkedIn profiles without the entity having the ability to modify those terms, in light of Rule Regulating The Florida Bar 4-7.14(a)(4), and to request that LinkedIn change its method of operation to permit modification of those terms by individual entities when creating their profiles.
The SCA also voted 4-0 to request that the Board of Governors direct the committee to issue a formal advisory opinion on LinkedIn, including the “specialties” header, the endorsements feature that shows endorsements for “skills and expertise.” If the Board of Governors approves the committee’s request to adopt a formal advisory opinion, a notice will be published in the bar News inviting comments by members of The Florida Bar in good standing in accordance with the Florida Bar Procedures for Issuing Advisory Opinions Relating to Lawyer Advertising or Solicitation.
Bottom line: This decision by the SCA reverses the advertising staff’s opinion and finds that a listing under “Top Skills and Expertise” does not violate Rule 4-7.14(a)(4) and that a posting of a former firm employee requires that does not have the area of certification when indicating board certification does not violate Rule 4-7.14(a)(4); however, it affirms the staff’s opinion that a law firm may not list areas of practice under the header “specialties” even though the word “specialties” is chosen by LinkedIn and cannot be modified by the firm. In addition, the SCA voted to contact LinkedIn and inform that entity of the problems created for lawyers and also to ask the BOG to request the SCA to issue a formal opinion on the subject. This appears to be a step in the right direction and I will keep everyone posted when I receive additional information.
Let’s be careful out there!
Disclaimer: this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
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Clearwater, Florida 33759
Office (727) 799-1688
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